Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Published in Hidden Stories/Human Lives: Proceedings of the Textile Society of America 17th Biennial Symposium, October 15-17, 2020. https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/tsaconf/

doi: 10.32873/unl.dc.tsasp.0084


Copyright © 2020 Anu H. Gupta


Creating phulkari, an embroidered craft of Punjab, for the market involves a value-chain of people for converting a solid fabric to an ornamented piece with embroidery. A pillar of this value-chain is domestic craftswomen. Being part of an informal sector, these women are susceptible to being exploited at home as well as by designers, vendors, and several others involved in the value-chain of production and marketing of craft. Many of them are pushed to the background not only by their family members but also by the people or vendors who give them work. Their individual contribution is acknowledged only when the product needs to be marketed and the consumer insists on knowing the person behind it. They are often underpaid, and practices of delayed payments are near normal. Remunerations received for hours of hard work involving intricate and minute embroidery is not enough to make them independent homemakers. Monetary contributions made by them to household expenses are regarded as subsidiary. Domestic craftswomen continue to live under the dual burden of patriarchy and gendered subjugation. However, there are a few stories of empowerment and progress that have helped some of them discover self. This paper highlights the stories of these home-based craftswomen: the reasons these craftswomen undertake this work, their status at home and in society, their dealings and relationships at home and with the people for whom they work. Data substantiated in the paper is based on five years of fieldwork that involved in-depth interviews, focus group discussions, and case studies from fifty villages of Punjab, India.